Manuel v. Phillips et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER..IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants' motion to dismiss [ECF No. 13] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's pending motion is DENIED as moot. Signed by District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr on 7/20/15. (MRS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MICHAEL T. MANUEL,
PAULA PHILLIPS, et al.,
No. 1:15CV27 SNLJ
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging denial of due process in
prison disciplinary proceedings and violations of his right to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim. The motion is granted.
Plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation on May 12, 2013, for assaulting a
correctional officer. According to plaintiff’s exhibits, he punched the officer several times in the
face, causing the officer to fall down. After the officer was on the ground, other officers told
plaintiff to stop, but he refused. He struck the officer on the face several times after the officer
fell. The officer suffered serious injuries as a result.
On May 22, 2013, the review committee issued a thirty-day review period. A hearing
was held on June 19, 2013, by defendant Vinson and others, in which continued administrative
segregation was recommended. Regular hearings were held during plaintiff’s placement in
administrative segregation. On May 22, 2014, defendant Wallace approved a twelve-month
extension to the placement. Wallace’s stated reasons were that plaintiff had incurred six conduct
violations while in administrative segregation. Two of the violations concerned threats plaintiff
made to correctional officers. Wallace noted that plaintiff had failed to participate in any
“Offender Programming offered in SECC’s Segregation Units.”
Wallace stated that the
extension was necessary due to the serious nature of the assault, which along with plaintiff’s
threats, showed that there was a serious risk that plaintiff would continue to assault staff. More
regular hearings were held, and on January 27, 2015, defendants Beggs and Dickerson
recommended that plaintiff should continue to be placed in administrative segregation.
Plaintiff asserted that his placement in administrative segregation for longer than twelve
months violated Department of Corrections’ policy, in that such extensions were required to be
reviewed and approved by the Deputy Division Director. Instead, the placement was approved
by Wallace, who was SECC’s Superintendent.
Plaintiff claimed to have told each of the
defendants that his placement was in violation of prison policy, and he said that each of the
defendants knew they were violating his rights at that point.
Plaintiff also claimed that defendant Beggs, a Functional Unit Manager, also refused to
follow prison policy by requesting a psychological assessment for plaintiff upon the issuance of
the twelve-month extension. Plaintiff said that he suffered from hallucinations. However, he did
not claim that he told Beggs about them. He also asserted that there were mice in his cell.
Plaintiff told a correctional officer about the mice, and the officer removed them five hours later.
He said that Beggs was made aware of the mice situation.
Plaintiff’s allegations are mostly conclusory and fail to allege facts, which if proved,
would entitle him to relief.
To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a complaint must plead more than “legal
conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported
by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must
demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is “more than the mere possibility of
misconduct.” Id. at 679. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief
will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Id.
Defendants argue that they are immune from suit in their official capacities. They are
correct. Naming a government official in his or her official capacity is the equivalent of naming
the government entity that employs the official, in this case the State of Missouri. Will v.
Michigan Dep=t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). A[N]either a State nor its officials acting
in their official capacity are >persons= under ' 1983.@ Id. As a result, the complaint fails to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted against defendants in their official capacities.
Defendants further argue that they did not deprive him of due process when placing him
in administrative segregation.
In order to determine whether plaintiff “possesses a liberty
interest, [the Court must] compare the conditions to which [plaintiff] was exposed in segregation
with those he . . . could >expect to experience as an ordinary incident of prison life.=@ Phillips v.
Norris, 320 F.3d 844, 847 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting Beverati v. Smith, 120 F.3d 500, 503 (4th Cir.
1997)). In this context, the Court “do[es] not consider the procedures used to confine the inmate
in segregation.” Id. (citing Kennedy v. Bankenship, 100 F.3d 640, 643 (8th Cir. 1996)). For
plaintiff “to assert a liberty interest, he must show some difference between [the] conditions in
segregation and the conditions in the general population which amounts to an atypical and
significant hardship.” Id.
Plaintiff’s exhibits are part of his complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c). He has introduced the
defendants’ responses to his grievances regarding his continued placement in segregation, and he
does not dispute the truthfulness of the statements. The documents show that plaintiff was given
regular hearings and that his placement in administrative segregation was continued because he
made threats to staff members and incurred six conduct violations. These facts demonstrate the
reasonableness in continuing his segregation. Plaintiff does not make any other allegations
showing he was subjected to an atypical or significant hardship. As a result, his due process
claims fail to state a cause of action.
Defendants also argue that plaintiff has failed to state an Eighth Amendment claim
against Beggs. To prevail on his Eighth Amendment claim, plaintiff must show that (1) he
suffered from an objectively serious harm and (2) defendant knew of, but deliberately
disregarded, the harm. See Schaub v. VonWald, 638 F.3d 905, 914 (8th Cir. 2011). Although
plaintiff claimed to have suffered from hallucinations, he did not claim that he made Beggs
aware of his psychological condition. Again, he only claimed that she failed to follow prison
policy. And he has not alleged that Beggs knew of but disregarded the mice in his cell. He
alleged that the mice were cleared out after he told a correctional officer about them. Therefore,
his Eighth Amendment claims fail to state a claim.
Finally, defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity. “Government
officials who perform discretionary functions are entitled to qualified immunity unless their
alleged conduct violated clearly established federal constitutional or statutory rights of which a
reasonable person in their positions would have known.” Wright v. Rolette County, 417 F.3d
879, 884 (8th Cir. 2005). The Court agrees with defendants that plaintiff has neither shown a
deprivation of a constitutional right nor that the rights he asserts in his complaint are clearly
established. Therefore, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants’ motion to dismiss [ECF No. 13] is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff’s pending motion is DENIED as moot.
Dated this 20th day of July, 2015.
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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